SPAZ ADDS PIZZAZZ: Francesca First To Seek Redemption
“You’re Looking at the New Leader of Your Tribe” Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz are brought in to lead Ometepe and Zapatera, respectively, and each receives their share of skeptics and fans. Kristina finds a Hidden Immunity Idol without a clue, and uses it to build an alliance with Francesca and Phillip – but when Phillip reveals himself to be a “spaz” and outs her idol during Tribal Council, things fall apart fast.
Anyone that watched my pre-game interviews with the contestants knows that the majority of them were not big fans of Russell. Some of them, like Steve (the former football player) and Mike (the marine), were downright hostile toward him. So no surprise that he got nowhere near the warm welcome that Rob did. When Rob picked the orange Ometepe buff, the tribe exploded into cheers. I remember being out there and watching the Zapatera tribe at that exact instant and they were crestfallen. After a few seconds, they recovered and at least put on a brave face, but make no mistake about it, neither tribe wanted Russell.
We saw Stephanie do her best Natalie and Parvati impersonation and form that early alliance with Russell. What you did not see — but I did while out there — is Russell campaigning hard to get rid of Sarita although he was having trouble remembering her name. He was working Steve hard on getting rid of her but Steve didn’t want to hear any of it, telling Russell “I’m just gonna focus on challenges. Right now, that’s all I’m gonna do — camp and challenges. I don’t want cannibalism inside here right now.” Steve was the most vocal anti-Russell voice before the game began “Russell was a little idiot,” he told me, while also dubbing him a “cancer” and “the lowest of the low” so I’ll be very curious to see how that relationship shakes out.
…And next thing you know you are part of the craziest first Tribal Council in Survivor history. Here’s my impersonation of Tribal: “Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Franquintessential.” First Phillip out of nowhere called Franqui-gon jinn out and said that she and Kristina had asked him to change his vote to get rid of Rob. Then he realized he hadn’t told anyone he was a special agent in 14 seconds so did that. Then he told everyone that Kristina had a hidden immunity idol. And then he told everyone about the treatment he was getting for his dry mouth. But the fireworks were just getting started.
Far more importantly, The Robfather was figuratively back this week with a chilling performance at tribal council confirming that he’s earned his nickname. Unlike Russell, who’s sticking to playbook which has lead him to two final tribal councils, Rob has learned to adapt his game and assert his dominance in multiple ways.
At tribal council, Phillip spilled the beans on Kristina and Francesca’s plan to get Rob out of the game using Kristina’s immunity idol and Kristina eventually fesses up to having the idol. Sensing vulnerability, Rob brazenly pounced and made Kristina an offer she couldn’t refuse: give Rob the idol and stay or keep it and she’ll be gone in no more than six days.
Even if Kristina didn’t give him the idol (and, smartly, she didn’t) simply asking the question was a power play move for Rob that was far more effective than making an alliance or winning a challenge. By challenging the person holding the hidden immunity idol, Rob demonstrated that he was not afraid of the idol. By effectively winning that challenge, Rob showed to the tribe that he was in charge regardless of the circumstances.